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Monday, June 8, 2009

A Storm of Swords

This was probably the most action packed, as well as tragic, of the first three books, where many breath-holding subplots finally get their resolve after over 3000 pages of series, where age old conflicts come to climax, elusive secrets finally get revealed, and the true character of many enigmatic figures comes to light.
Here Martin succeeds in dashing virtually every hope of the armchair fan about two thirds through the book, no matter who he or she has been rooting for, but at the same time proves his writing mastery by keeping the reader from throwing the book down in utter disgust by the sheer power of several intriguing subplots that reader may not have even realized that he cared about until Martin so deftly and punctually turned up the flame.
Alot has been written about analogies in this series to the War of the Roses, using the literary device called "Historical Criticism," but in order to offer something new by way of review I would herein also like to put the book under the scrutiny of what I'll call "Prehistoric Criticism."
In a nutshell, this series can also be equated to the Pleistocene Ice Age of Europe, where winters really did last for hundreds or even thousands of years. The giants and children of the forest could well be seen as Neanderthals and/or other archaic humans, or possibly even the earliest so-called Cro-Magnons, or Aurignacions.
The First Men would be the tale end of the Aurignacion, or possibly the Gravettian, whereas the Andals represent later cultures such as the Solutrean (despite the Andal's metallurgy) or even the far later "Iron Age."
The Wall could be seen as a memory of the great glaciers that once lay across Europe, and for millenia seperated "Upper Paleolithic" homo sapien from the neanderthals, and later seperated both the Aurignacions and neanderthals from the invading Gravettians for a time.
If we are to look at the book as a memory of the real age of myth and legend, which some believe is the Pleistocene Ice Age, then The War of the Roses takes a back seat; since we have no details of the political history of Ice Age Europe, Martin had to create a probable one. And since history repeats itself, why not draw influence for the the sordid details of clan warfare from one of the ugliest snapshots of human pettiness and depravity we have available to us, The War of the Roses?
Surely Martin shows us here that Houses and Banners are no more civilized than Clans and Totems, and that both caves and castles can house the barbary of man.
And of course, Valyria can be equated to Atlantis and the Ironmen to the predecessors of the Vikings.
Further, Martin seems to have used more than just the War of the Roses to bring political life to this mythical memory of the Ice Age; to name just one instance, Oldtown with it's cobblestone streets and bribe to the Andlas reminds me much of my hometown of Savannah and it's similar bribe to Sherman...and being a decently well-off American Martin is sure to have heard the spiel of the tour guides from the Hostess City of the South on a vacation sometime in his life.

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